The tagline of Durham County season 1 was "Smaller the town, Darker the secrets", and that was a very fitting tagline, as it seemed everyone was hiding something, whether they were "good" or "bad" characters.
With the DVD release of Season 2, we have a new tagline of "Same Town, Darker Secrets", and once again that's a very apt description of this series.
Returning with a second set of six episodes, we pick up with the Sweeney family as they try to somehow salvage some semblance of a familial structure in the aftermath of Ray Prager.
It seemed that Ray has left his fingerprints on virtually everyone in the show as the show begins.
Sadie is dealing with her interactions with Ray in the finale of last season and just like her father, we don't exactly know what went on. She's obviously still dealing with the lingering affects of what happened, and you can see it's tearing her apart inside. And while we don't know exactly what it was, although we have ideas, it's way too much for her to hold inside, which is what she's trying to do.
Mike is struggling to come to grips with how his family has disintegrated in the wake of the events of last season. His marriage is practically over, he's having to move out, and he's constantly bouncing back and forth between a bubbling rage and constant anxiety over the possibilities of what Ray Prager did to his daughter before he got there to save her.
She won't answer his questions, which only makes him more on edge.
Then there's Ray's son, Ray Jr. He's in love with Sadie, however Mike isn't having any of that. There's obvious parallels between Ray Jr/Sadie and Romeo/Juliet, only the relationship between Ray Jr. and Sadie wanders away from the "meant for each other" aspects and more into the "this is a bad idea" areas.
You can tell they sort of have feelings for each other, however Ray Jr's father's actions towards Sadie, and Sadie's father's actions towards Ray Prager have created this huge wall between them that it's hard to see anyone overcoming.
Sadie's so internally damaged over what happened, and her decision to keep the crux of the encounter to herself, leads her to try to deal with this in any way she can. This includes trying to coax Ray Jr. into helping her recreate the encounter with his father, which freaks out Ray Jr.
Sadie is trying to come to grips with her feelings and her trauma by meeting with a therapist, Pen Verity (Michelle Forbes), who is an old acquaintance of her father's.
Verity has some issues of her own dealing with the death of her son which may or may not have been an accident, the divorce from her husband which is growing more and more acrimonious by the day, and an affair with Sadie's father, while treating her.
Forbes is an amazing actress, and shows once again that she's heavily underrated when it comes to this acting game. She played the role of Verity with such humanity and intensity that you totally understood her actions, even while finding yourself repulsed by them.
You see her doing reprehensible things, and yet much like Ray Prager in Season 1, you can almost see the method to the madness. And with Verity there was a definite sense of madness about her, a result of trauma in her past.
At one moment you find yourself empathizing with what she's gone through and what she's currently going through, and then you see her poisoning some chocolates to harm someone close to Mike and your feelings change, and you see that this same person you're sympathizing with earlier you can see her in her full on evil mode, and then you can STILL feel for her later in scenes where she's falling apart. It takes a special kind of actress to pull that off, and not just make a one dimensional villain.
Her confrontation with Mike after he finds out what she did with the chocolates stands out as my favorite scene of Season 2, and it is a nice showdown between two very strong willed actors.
In all, every character in this series is damaged seemingly beyond help. At times it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which they can ever be whole again.
The entire season is building towards the endgame, which is Sadie testifying against Ray Prager (played this season by Romano Orzari due to Justin Louis' role on Stargate Universe), which is something she's dreading and not sure if she can do.
Complicating her decision is friends of Ray's (some of which are in the police department) are determined to make sure she doesn't testify.
While the first season was a dark and disturbing look into Suburbia and the secrets it hides under it's idyllic image, this season goes even deeper and presents these characters as even more flawed. You see how they react to adversity and hurdles, and the results are often not pretty.
There were a few things that I had reservations with, mainly Orzari's replacing Louis as Ray Prager. Louis was fantastic and just flat out owned that role, and while it was difficult to imagine someone else playing it, Orzari did a capable job.
In fact he was covered in makeup to illustrate the burns that the character suffered after setting himself on fire out of seeming remorse for his actions. During the first several episodes he was mostly hidden in shadows, and until he was fully shown I didn't even realize it wasn't him. That might be a combination of the fact that I didn't pay attention to the credits, and hadn't heard that Louis wasn't back, and also because Orzari was very good in this role.
Not as good as Louis, but good nonetheless.
All in all this was another fantastic season to what quickly became one of my top five television shows of all time. The upcoming third season, scheduled currently to air in October, will be the final season according to the show runners. This is a disappointment to fans of the show, as of course we want to see what we love as much as possible. However there's a delicate balance between ending a show too early, and staying too late.
Many popular shows tend to overstay their welcome, because they're still getting decent ratings, but creatively they've been stagnant or declining for years. And then you look back on the show and think "well it was good, but man was it bad at the end".
With Durham County, unless this upcoming season is a disappointment, and there's no reason to even imagine that being possible, we'll see the show off in style, still at the height of it's creativity and brilliance in acting, writing, direction and presentation.
Besides, we'll still have the scheduled movie finale, so we still have at least a year or two before Durham County is done for good. Maybe more, depending on how the movie is received.
SEASON 2 DVD DETAILS
Unlike last season which came in slimpaks inside a slipcover, this one has only two discs with three episodes on each disc, and one of each of the two behind the scenes videos on each. It also comes in a standard amaray dvd case, with an insert that holds a second disc inside. There's also a slip cover for your dvd case that features the same artwork as the main case.
I have to say that it seemed they were perhaps saving money this time around on the packaging. I don't know if that's because the first season didn't sell as well or what, but it's a noticeable difference. Doesn't change the quality of the show, which is top notch, just something I noticed.
The Bonus features are lighter this time around as well, with two videos. One is an "Interview with Cast & Crew" which is pretty enlightening and a nice insight into the making of the show, and the other is a "Making of" Durham County.
This remains one of my favorite shows of all time, and definitely one of the best shows on TV now. A slight hiccup with the replacement of Justin Louis for Ray Prager, although it was an unavoidable situation seeing as how Louis got a lead role on Stargate: Universe. Hopefully he'll return sometime for Season 3 or the movie, but there's no guarantees of that.
Great show, decent packaging, a little skimpy on the extras, but the extras that are there are very good and very insightful on the making of this great show.
Buy with confidence!